Demon Storm Edit

On the horizon I see it. Faceless, disembodied. A wail rises from the coming storm, it seems to cross the desert in seconds. I can feel the atmosphere change from a cool breeze to a humid gale, sick with the stench of blood. I can sense the evil emanating from it, and I know the disease it brings... Chaos. Disorder. Death. Murder.

"It's coming!" someone cries. I turn to run. The city isn't far off, and it's protective walls may provide just the cover we need. It's louder now. I swear I can hear them. The infernal inhabitants of this dark storm.

I briefly turn away from the others, looking back over my shoulder. The dark wind ruffles through my hair and assaults my senses. The stench is overwhelming. I can smell the rot.

But as overpowering as the rotten stench is, it pales when compared to the sight now relentlessly pursuing my companions and I across the desert floor. I can barely see through the haze of blood to gaze upon what lies beneath. Thousands of them, perhaps millions stare out at us with cold, hungry eyes. They desire a fresh meal. New blood, and they are keeping my companions and I in mind.

I turn back towards the others. They are nearly to the gates of the dark city, but far ahead of me, and the infernal deluge is quickly gaining. I sense something else. Perhaps about this desolate land, or the posioned city before me, but it is dark and foreboding, almost too incredible a feeling to bear.

I know not what danger lies within the grey walls of that forgotten city, but the thought pales in comparison to the demonic bedlam that licks at my heels.

I dare not turn around now, for I know I shall face my doom. Two grotesque yellow eyes, fangs, perhaps a winged creature bearing claws and talons. They would rend the flesh from my bones, and my life essence would be added to the horrific tumult, bidding it brighter with my own blood. I can feel the demons breathing down my neck now, even as my unknown comrades scream for me to hurry.

Finally, I reach the gates, and they are slammed shut behind me. I can hear them outside now, wailing with eternal torment, calling for blood. I am in the city now, and the city is damned.

I have recourse for a moment to observe. I cannot see the faces of my companions, but I can see their forms. I can hear their whimpers. They are like me, strangers to this place. None of them speak, but I know all of them. I also know that they feel the same as me. That this cursed city, poisoned with the stench of dead is no safer than the infernal maelstrom outside.

I see now that the city is entirely enclosed from the sky, save for a few spots where the stone has worn away, brittle from years of disuse. There is just barely enough light let in from outside to see the grey, lifeless walls of a once-thriving city.

But now, there is nothing, save for the stench of the unquiet dead.

My companions anjd I rest for a moment to catch our breaths. There is a brief flash of light as a wall-torch explodes in a fury of life-sustaining flame.

The city before us is revealed in a wash of flickering light. Old buildings, perhaps homes or shops, once brimming with human life make themselves known. Now, only dark shadows of what they once were remain. Now, only home to the array of rotted corpses and brittle bones.

This place is cursed.

What horror had befallen this ancient city of the damned? What plague had struck this place? We knew not. But we all knew one thing... whatever it was... was still here.

The unhallowed storm outside was still going strong outside, so, unsure of ourselves, we took the first gentle step and ventured farther into the city.

Past crumbled column and fallen walls we walked. Over rocky debris and ancient, forgotten fodder. Periodically we heard the telltale crunch of bones and insects beneath our feet. Soon, we found ourselves standing before a courtyard.

Within the courtyard itself, bones were strewn about, as though part of some arcane garden.

Yes, it was a bone garden. And at the garden's center, a deep weel. And at the well's center, a low rumbling assaulted our ears, followed soon afterwards by a high-pitched chittering.

We knew it was coming. By torchlight we all prepared what weapons we had, ready to fight, but ready to flee. With blades drawn out, we awaited the unknown, damned creature of the Bone Garden's pit.

And when it emerged, we took an instinctive step backwards. It came up, revealing two thick antennae, followed by two mandibles, each capable of chewing through the strongest of precious metals. The mandibles revealed the head, adorned with tw yellow eyes and a purple shell. Leg after leg after leg protruded from the insectoid body as it emerged from its lair.

With its thick purple shell, the giant centipede began its assault. Blades drawn, we set about our attack.

The blades flew. Sword and scythe, dagger and glaive. With desperation as our fuel, we attacked the dark being with our very souls. Our will to live was the fuel to our fire. With each strike of our weapons, a sickening crunch resounded throughout these fortgotten halls, finally drowning out the sound of the demonic wailing from outside.

Piece by piece, we chipped through the creature's thick natural armour. A transparent mucous begal to pool into the bones and dirt beneath us. With every successful strike, the creature screeched, and finally, we had broken through, separating its body.

The creature stopped moving.

And, as we all paused to regain ourselves, the pool of liquid began to recede back into the creature, and its pieces began to grab out, reaching for one another, forcing the body back together.

We fled. It was the only course of action against a seemingly immortal foe.

We ran through the city for what seemed like hours, zig-zagging through the pitch streets with no destination in mind, only the desperate need to escape the unnatural creature which had attacked us. Only when we were certain we had escaped it did we even attempt to stop for breath.

We quickly ducked into an abandoned shop and allowed ourselves a moment's rest. It was only upon closer examination that we discovered ourselves in an old weapons shop. The walls and cases were lined with cursed weapons, built of this doomed city.

It suddenly occured to me... In order to defeat that accursed creature, we must use weapons from this infernal armoury.

I picked up a blade, and I could feel the blood it had spilled. Yes, these weapons were cursed, but our only alternative was death.

My companions, men and women whom I knew all intimately, must have come to the same silent conclusion. Our unspoken bond led them to replace their old weapons with the cursed ones.

It was then that we heard it. The telltale chittering of the Monster of the Bone Garden approaching from outside. With a mutual nod from my companions, and with our cursed weapons in tow, we went out to meet the unnatural creation.

The attack started again. This time there was no sickening crunch of the shell being forcfed into itself, but a clean slice. Our weapons cut through the creature as if it were made of pulp.

And finally, the creature was done. No longer did it chitter away, no more did unnatural tendrils reach out to pull itself back together, and no longer did it wish to feed on my companions and I.

But, there was a deafening silence echoing throughout the great halls of this desolate city of the damned, save for the laboured panting brought forth by the exertions of my companions and I. It was in that moment, I think, that we all realized the link between us all.

In the waking world, these men and women were my friends. In this nightmarish land, this cursed city, they were my only chance of survival, as I was to them.

Suddenly, there was a great upheaval, the very ground beneath us twisted and cracked. The earth belched the sickly smell of sulfur. Twisting and rolling, rolling and twisting, it began the attempt to swallow us.

And swallow us, it did.

The smell was more overwhelming in this new place, some unknown distance beneath the forgotten city. We quickly rose to our feet to take in our new surroundings. A cavern of immense proportions greeted us. Hot with the stink of spoiled eggs, littered with pools and flows of molten lava, and designed by some master, yet demented craftsmen, for the cavern we stood in was the center of some cosmic machine. An infernal creation of cogs and wheels, of levers and gears...

What demented mind had conjured up this machine? What madmen had designed it? What purpose did it serve?

Suddenly, the answer occured to us. Looking high high above, at the city forgotten by time, it seemed simple enough to fathom. Its creators had once lived in the city above. They had built the city, and then this infernal machine. But what of its purpose?

Gaze upon me, the machine said. Be lost in me, for I am alive but in the minds of men.

It spoke not, but we knew what it was. This machine, this dread machine, was evil. The base of all evil, the stem of corruption and birthplace of the diabolical...

Filled with sloth, dripping with envy, seething with lust, engorged in gluttony, brimming with pride, overflowing with greed, and spewing forth wrath. The machine was coursing with Sin, and its fuel was blood.

Suddenly, the idea of facing unending demons didn't seem so terrible.

Skyward we climbed, through the rubble caused by the earthfall that brought us to that damned, forgotten machine, into that dread city, full of sun creatures. Through the city we marched, haunted by what we had bore witness to, until we reached the gates.

Dusk had just began to settle outside, the demon storm had passed.

Bracing ourselves fir what unknown nightmares we may face, brandhishing our cursed weapons, we stepped out into the wastelands, and left that city of sin, the city of Pandora's Box, the City of Nod behind.

--Ex Machina

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